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Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias has been working steadily alongside Pedro Almodóvar for more than 25 years. Iglesias’ sweeping, romantic scores have helped capture the outsized intimacy that has become a staple of the filmmaker’s late career offerings, including Oscar-winning films like All About My Mother and Talk to Her.
Iglesias still remembers the first time Almodóvar reached out to him to score 1995’s The Flower of My Secret. “I was surprised when he called, but I did see some connection with his world,” says Iglesias. “His cinema struck me as very truthful, and it really ached for music. You could see that he’s a great lover of music. And since his films are so rooted in melodrama, I was able to see that I could do things alongside him that I hadn’t done until then.”
The pair’s most recent project is Parallel Mothers. Starring Almodóvar’s longtime muse, Penélope Cruz, the bruising melodrama follows a pair of single mothers whose meeting at a maternity ward irrevocably ties them to each other in unexpected ways. At once an unorthodox love story, a moving meditation on motherhood and a forceful exploration of memory in post-Franco Spain, the film teeters at the edge of many genres, something Iglesias’ 1930s-infused, string-heavy score captures with striking ease.
“We wanted the score to have a thriller aspect to it,” he says. “But an intimate thriller, a psychological one. We knew the score had to stay close to its protagonist — it had to live alongside her glances, her breaths.”
One of the first scenes Iglesias scored, knowing how crucial music could be to its emotional impact, was the twinned birthing scene at the top of the film. “It just has this electricity to it,” he says. “It crackles with energy and light. It’s almost operatic. It plays with a vital, lifelike impulse. Like a heartbeat. It’s about loving life.”
A three-time Oscar nominee (The Constant Gardener, The Kite Runner, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) whose work with Almodóvar has yet to net him such recognition from the Academy, Iglesias finds the warm embrace of their most recent collaboration as surprising as it is welcome.
“At first I thought the score would almost be mistaken for the look, for the feeling of the film,” says Iglesias. “Or its costumes. Or its editing. It’s almost hidden, it’s so interwoven. And I much like that shape-shifting ability music can have. That notion that it could become part of the color of the film. That it could flow through it without being noticed, yet still be able to move you. I thought that’s what would happen to this score. But that it’s being so recognized gives me a boost. It makes me want to keep going.”
This story first appeared in a January stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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